As chinchilla owners or potential future chinchilla owners, I’m sure you all have many questions. I had the same issues when I adopted my first chinchilla from a local rescue. I got my first chinchilla when she was 10 months old. She came from an incredible rescue and from owners who took outstanding care of her. The rescue owners helped me pick her out and guided me through some questions you may be having as well. Upon arriving at home with her, I still many other questions I wanted to be addressed. One was common if you ask me. Are chinchillas cuddly? Well a few months into my journey with my chinchilla, here is what I can tell you.
So, are chinchillas cuddly? No, chinchillas are generally not cuddly. They typically take several weeks to adjust and to get used to their new environment. Most of the time, chinchillas may show affection and love, but they don’t like being overly handled, picked up or their space being too invaded.
Don’t let this news turn you away though. After just a week or so, my chinchilla started warming up and interacting with me much more than she did during this initial coming home phase.
With some proper conditioning, respect of your chinchillas’ space, and some patience, your chinchilla can show more love and affection towards you than you may think.
Especially when he or she begins recognizing you as their owner. Things get fun, and that’s what I want to touch on today. The good and the bad about handling, cuddling and interacting with your chinchilla.
Respect Your Chinchillas Space
This is especially important during the initial weeks when you return home or bring your chinchilla home for the first time. Your house makes noises. Your furnace may kick on and make some small clatter. You may be using a basement near a washer and dryer or even have young kids running around.
Depending on where you got your chinchillas such as a rescue or even a pet store, these noises are likely different than what they are used to. In addition, everything will look different and smell different to your chinchilla.
This is putting their senses into overdrive. I know it did when my chinchilla first arrived home. I have a small wooden hiding box in my chinchilla cage, and she barely came out of it at all during the first week.
I even used a DSLR camera to record her at night, so I could make sure she was eating and drinking water.
I’ll upload those videos at another time for you on our YouTube Channel.
The Warming Up Phase Is Not the Time to Attempt Cuddling and Handling
Although you may luck out and find a chinchilla that loves to cuddle and be held, it’s not extremely common, and it’s not recommended during the first few weeks. This is when your chinchilla will be the most fearful and defensive.
Attempting to pick up your chinchilla or placing your fingers in their face may not even be a good idea during the first week.
Don’t get me wrong. Although a chinchilla can bite, they are extremely friendly soft loving pets but any pet, when scared out of their mind, can act a bit differently than they will when they are warmed up.
Like I said, my chinchilla didn’t do much except sit in her hiding box when I first got her home. I gave her some treats over the next week or so and made it her come to my hand to get them just to begin building the bond. In addition, I got her out for dust baths.
She was shy and scared during this time, but at the end of the day, she slowly starts coming around and getting used to the environment. At the end of the day just ensure you continue to spend time with your chinchilla to ensure they don’t get lonely or have a lack of social interaction.
After the Initial Phase Blows Over
After your chinchilla is comfortable with the environment, things begin to change, and you can start to see the love. My chinchilla took about 7-10 days for this transition once we arrived home.
After she was comfortable, I began attempting to condition her some and let her know that I’m safe and one of the good guys.
I would and still get her out for about 30-45 minutes every day and interact with her. Now, a few weeks into it, she will jump on, sit on my shoulder, climb on my head and from time to time even nibble my ear.
My goal during this phase was to really show her that I’m safe and build the association, that I represent pleasure and safety. I never invaded her space non-invited. If your chinchilla gets squirrely when you pick them up, set them down.
If they scatter when being touched or petted in the first week or so, wait for them to come to you. I’d offer small treats, allow her to eat out of my hand and would even bring the dust bath into the room where we have out of cage playtime.
3 Weeks into The Cuddling Experience
Now things have shifted dramatically. Me just walking into the room near her, gets her excited and to the front of her cage ready to play. I can pet her in the cage and outside of the cage. She loves being scratched behind her ears and under her chin.
Now, during playtime, she is cuddly. Well sort of, if I lay down on the floor, even though the room is decent sized, she will burrow into my chest, lay on my shoulder or just hang out for several minutes on my shoulder.
We haven’t taken a nap together by any means and cuddled up for a movie day, but she’s undoubtedly beginning to warm up and show how great chinchillas can be as pets.
Don’t overdo it and allow them time. Trying to push the issue too much will just have them fleeing in the option direction from you. No need to have your chinchilla wanting to run away from you.
Pushing It May Cause A Fur Slip
Forcing it too much in the beginning or in general can cause a lot of anxiety in your chinchilla. If you have never owned before, you may run into what’s known as a fur slip. I have a post that discusses all the reasons why chinchillas lose their fur that you can see here.
A fur slip is nothing more than a defense mechanism chinchilla’s use in the wild to protect themselves from enemies. I don’t think you want to experience the feeling that you pushed it too much and your chinchilla is that frightful of you.
If, however, it’s a large patch of fur that takes the chinchilla down to the skin, you need to back off a bit and give them space.
Don’t Fear the Fur Slip in All Situations
During the warming up period, don’t beat yourself over cuddling with your chinchilla and scaring them into a fur slip. It happens, and the fur will grow back. It’s going to happen to you several more times over the next 15 years. My 2-year-old son was the first person to make my chinchilla have a fur slip.
Now they interact with each other and are perfectly fine. It’s about finesse, taking things slow and building that bond with your chinchilla if you ultimately want to reach the cuddle time in the future.
The Smallest Things Make the Biggest Difference
I’ll be launching a YouTube channel here soon to prove some of this to all my readers but what I’ve noticed over the past couple months is that the smallest things make the most significant difference. I believe this is what has led my chinchilla to be more open to cuddles and interaction.
She sits near me in my home office all day, and I’ll randomly talk to her. I clean her cage daily and give her a treat while doing so. I pet her in her cage but only if she comes to me, and I just treat her with the same respect that I would treat you or any other animal.
If she’s not in the mood. I leave her alone. Plain and simple. If she is, I show her attention (when I have the time of course)
Biting, Shaking, Running Are Sure Signs It’s Not Time for Cuddles
Now, chinchillas will rarely bite. In fact, mine has never bitten my 2-year-old son or me. Even during the fur slip episode, she did not bite. Even with treat residue on my hand, she does not bite. She may nibble and heck, she even nibbles my ears while sitting on my shoulder.
This is a sign of love. However, if you do get a real chinchilla bite, your chinchilla is shaking in fear or is continually trying to hide or get away from you, it’s time to start rethinking your strategy.
The Circle of Trust Will Get You Closer to Cuddle Time
I call this the circle of trust and fear. Picture your chinchilla as having a circle of chalk around her drawn on the floor almost like a crime scene would have. That’s her fear and trust circle. She may fear you in the beginning but respecting this circle begins to condition him or her towards getting used to you.
Getting used to your smells, voice, physical appearance and all that entails. Slowly, if you just respect their space, you have conditioned them that when you’re around nothing terrible ever happens.
The circle gets smaller. Now you can get them out to play, but the circle still exists. Don’t push it. Let them out, and if they want to jump and poop on your head, that’s fine. It’s up to them. Don’t worry either. The poop and the chinchilla do not smell.
The Circle Will Disappear and Cuddles Will Begin
Eventually, the circle does disappear. For me, this took about 3 weeks total as I stated before. I can grab her, place my fingers in her face, let her jump all over me and she gets excited anytime I’m around. Just give it time and show some respect and the cuddles will follow.
Don’t Be Alarmed if Your Chinchilla Never Cuddles
Also, you need to keep in mind that not all chinchillas are the same. They don’t all enjoy interaction the same or want to cuddle. This may take years to overcome, or it may never happen in general. The key is to remain patient and realize it’s just the luck of the draw with your chinchilla.
With some dust bath time, treats and proper care and handling, I have full faith your chinchilla will eventually be ready to show some love towards you. That’s when it becomes the most fun as a chinchilla owner. The head sitting, shoulder running, leg jumping, ear nibbling time is what we all are looking for.
Well, at least I was. I don’t know about You
Chinchillas Are Sweet Loving Pets
At the end of the day, if you follow these directions, I’m confident you can form that unbreakable bond with your chinchilla. Eventually, they come around and realize you’re the boss but also that you love them. They love you too and enjoy your company and time out of the cage.
Be sure always to set aside each day to let your chinchilla play and interact with you and the family. Don’t push the envelope too much and eventually, you will be thrilled you made the decision to get a chinchilla as the family pet.
What’s your experience with cuddling and handling your chinchilla? How long did it take for you to warm up to your chinchilla and for the bond to grow? Be sure to drop a comment below. I’d love to hear from all of you.